Football: Ronaldo and Juventus will avoid US amid rape investigation

Ronaldo (right) attends a training session for the Portugese team.
Ronaldo (right) attends a training session for the Portugese team.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

NEW YORK (NYTIMES) - Organisers of a high-profile summer tournament for world soccer's biggest club teams have decided to keep Juventus and its star Cristiano Ronaldo away from the United States this year, eliminating the risk of the Portuguese star's being detained by authorities as part of a rape investigation in Las Vegas.

While the bulk of the games in the tournament, the International Champions Cup, will take place in the United States as usual, Juventus' games will be a part of the Asian version of the annual event.

Juventus will be joined there - most likely in China and Singapore - by Premier League teams Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United.

Ronaldo, a five-time world player of the year, is in his first season in Italy's top league after Juventus paid more than US$114 million (S$154 million) to acquire him from Real Madrid last July.

Only months after his transfer, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department said it had reopened an investigation into accusations by an American woman, Kathryn Mayorga, who said Ronaldo raped her in a Las Vegas hotel room in 2009 and later paid her US$375,000 for her silence.

Ronaldo and his lawyers repeatedly denied the rape accusation when it emerged in September; Ronaldo labelled it "fake news" in a video posted on one of his social media accounts, and at one point his lawyers threatened to sue the German newsmagazine that was the first to publish Mayorga's accusations.

Juventus stood behind its star, too, expressing appreciation for his "great professionalism and dedication" and saying Mayorga's accusations "do not change this opinion."

 
 
 

Juventus has a multiyear agreement to play in the International Champions Cup, which is organised by New York-based Relevent Sports.

Ronaldo's legal troubles played a role in shaping plans for Juventus' participation, according to people familiar with this summer's schedule, which will be released next week.

A spokesman for Juventus, which is on course to win an eighth straight Italian league championship, said "going east" to Asia was normal after spending recent preseasons in the United States.

While preseason tours are not seen as serious competition, they are vital for teams' preparations before the new season, and Juventus would have drawn unwanted scrutiny had it travelled to the US without Ronaldo, its star attraction.

The case against Ronaldo resurfaced after German magazine Der Spiegel said it had obtained confidential documents related to the case, and the purported payment by Ronaldo to settle it, from whistleblower platform Football Leaks.

Around the same time, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department said it had reopened its investigation into the rape accusation, following up on information it said had been provided by the victim.

Ronaldo, now 33, was a star at England's Manchester United when he met Mayorga, now 35, at a Las Vegas nightclub in 2009, just before his record-breaking transfer to Real Madrid. He invited her and others to his suite in the early hours of June 13, 2009, she said, where she says he sexually assaulted her.

A number of the documents Mayorga's lawyers say support her claim were published by Der Spiegel, which also published a lengthy interview with Mayorga. Ronaldo's lawyers have questioned the authenticity of some of the documents published by Der Spiegel but have not denied that Ronaldo and Mayorga had a sexual encounter, which they contend was consensual.

According to her lawsuit, Mayorga reported being assaulted to police later that day and underwent a medical examination, during which evidence was collected in what is sometimes known as a rape kit.

Las Vegas police have acknowledged that Mayorga filed a report and was examined, but police said she did not name her attacker at the time.

The case was reopened at Mayorga's request in September.